How to Read a Newspaper (Updated)

One of the most important skills I learned from my teacher of international relations, the great Harold Rood of Claremont McKenna College, was how to read a newspaper. I’m not referring to what order to read the paper, or how to “deconstruct” news stories to surmise what is left out, but rather as clues to what is really going on and who has the initiative. This skill was a variation of his axiom, “Nothing happens for no good reason.”

For example, Scott, following the Free Beacon, reported on how a senior Iranian official boasted on state-run media that Iran helped the 9/11 hijackers transit through Iran undetected. Since this “news” came from state-run Iranian media, this story has to have been put out on purpose, with the blessing if not the initiative of the Iranian government. That is the kind of fact that will not be mentioned in a typical news story. What was the purpose of putting out this story? This is the kind question that will not be asked in a typical news story. Perhaps it is intended to goad President Trump or Iran’s Arab neighbors in some way? Maybe Iran doesn’t want to have any re-negotiations about its nuclear status. Maybe it wants to have a regional war now.

Likewise, did anyone notice the story last week, which appeared on the front pages of several newspapers, that Kim Jong Un was demanding that his very expensive hotel lodgings in Singapore be paid for by someone else (presumably the U.S.)? This kind of demand is said to be standard operating procedure of the Norks. Most news stories give it the spin that this was just another sign of how penurious and/or scheming the Norks are. Question: did some reporter find out this information on his or her own, by serendipity? Of course not. Someone in our foreign policy establishment made sure to “leak” or promote this information to journalists, likely in an attempt to embarrass Kim Jong Un. Ditto the story out today that Kim brought his own toilet with him to Singapore. Does anyone think the North Korean ministry of information put this news out? I think we owe some props to our team for a good PsyOp on Little Rocket Man.

You should always ask yourself who benefits from a newspaper story based on a leak, or some fact that wouldn’t otherwise be reported in the ordinary course of plain news gathering. Someone usually has a motive for making sure a story or fact makes  it into the news.

UPDATE: Power Line’s favorite comedian (along with Ammo Grrll), David Deeble, passes along his newspaper reading technique, which I highly recommend—only about a minute long:

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